Africa’s only remaining female president Ameenah Gurib-Fakim of Mauritius has resigned, over a credit card scandal, according to her lawyer.

The move came after Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth accused her of backpedalling on a promise to quit amid allegations of misconduct and threatening unspecified actions if she did not step down.

The dispute between the two leaders has ratcheted up uncertainty on the Indian Ocean island, which has been politically and economically stable since it gained independence from Britain in 1968. 

The World Bank ranks the country as the easiest place to do business in Africa.

Gurib-Fakim, the country’s first female head of state, on Wednesday denied having any plans to resign and said she was prepared to go to court over allegations she spent money from a charity on a shopping trip. That was just days after Jugnauth said Gurib-Fakim told him during a meeting at State House she planned to step down.

“I am shocked – shocked is not a strong enough word,” Jugnauth told reporters on Thursday in the capital, Port Louis, in a briefing broadcast by Radio Plus. “It’s an attitude which is damaging to the office of the presidency. It’s a behaviour which does not honour our republic.”

Gurib-Fakim said she “inadvertently” used a payment card issued to her by the Planet Earth Institute in 2016 that was identical to a bank card she already had. After telling the London-based charity she’d used their card for about US$27,000 of “out-of-pocket expenses”, she immediately reimbursed the institute in addition to other expenses incurred on a PEI trip.

“The clash makes a big dent to the reputation of our country as a business-friendly and well-managed economy,” said Dan Maraye, a former governor of the Bank of Mauritius and now an independent political analyst.

“Political uncertainty destroys economic development and stability. It brings the whole system to a crashing halt until the matter is cleared.”

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim is a biodiversity scientist. She became president of the island nation in 2015. 

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim is a leading international scientist who previously directed the Mauritius-headquartered Centre for Phytotherapy Research (CEPHYR), an organization that authorizes the research for plants used in cosmetics, nutrition, and therapy.

 

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